A few months ago, I read a quote from Philip Roth in an interview in Le Monde in which he states that “serious readers” are shrinking just like the polar ice cap. He defines a serious reader as…
"…an adult who reads, let’s say, two or more hours a night, three or four nights a week, and by the end of two or three weeks he has read the book. A serious reader is not someone who reads for half an hour at a time and then picks the book up again on the beach a week later. While reading, serious readers aren’t distracted by anything else. They put the kids to bed, and then they read. They don’t watch TV intermittently or stop off and on to shop on-line or to talk on the phone. There is, indisputably, a rapidly diminishing number of serious readers, certainly in America."
As is the case frequently with people who don’t look at the Internet, I found him to be profoundly misinformed. Because even just from my Tumblr dashboard alone, I can see that there are in fact many, many serious readers in America, who are even more passionate about the books they read than the television shows or movies they watch. I mean, fuck, this is the age in which millions of people have read “Game of Thrones,” a series over 5,000 pages long, and counting.
I have many, many friends who are serious readers. And a few with whom I would say that I “read together with.” Meaning that I frequently get together with them jus to talk about books we read in tandem. We frequently disagree. We have lively debates. We exchange ideas as a result. It’s wonderful.
I turned to the four people with whom I’ve read most frequently over the years; Laura, my best friend since elementary school, with whom I used to have reading playdates; my father, who gave himself an education better than the best Ivy League degree by obsessively reading over the course of his lifetime; Matt Dreyer, who I probably owe 10 or 20 books; and Wes, who has been feeding me titles I’ve never heard of over the past year.
As my father put best, we’ve compiled this list of 100 greatest books we can remember reading with sincere contemplation. We believe it to be incomplete and subject to further review and editing. But we thought it worthwhile to give this list to other people, in case they are looking for recommendations themselves.
This is not a list compiled to boost our own egos, or to impress people about the breadth of our knowledge. It is a list of books that as serious readers, we truly and whole-heartedly love. It is arranged chronologically. We did not agree on all of them. I myself have not read many of them, and look forward to using this list as a guide for my own reading in the upcoming year.
We give it to you as an act of love — love for the written word, and love for each other, because it is for each other that we gave these suggestions.
The 100 Greatest Books We Can Remember Reading
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813
Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, 1844